Auburn football HC Bryan Harsin is bullish on the improvement from one of his few returning receivers from just a season ago.
If not for Shedrick Jackson’s return for a super senior year and a late offseason comeback from Ja’Varrius Johnson after talks of a transfer portal jump, Malcolm Johnson Jr. would be the top returning pass-catcher from a season ago.
The transfer portal and the simple passage of time for departing seniors/NFL hopefuls led to a depleted WR room, but Johnson Jr. was never thought to be on the move. Instead, waiting for an opportunity after limited action in 2020 and making the most of the nine plays from the line of scrimmage he was on the field for (six catches, 82 yards, one TD) in 2021 was always the plan.
His patience has been coupled with improvement this spring, and Bryan Harsin heaped praise on the Alexandria, Virginia product on Saturday:
Auburn football WR room is an unproven commodity ahead of 2022 season
Relative to other receiving cores in the SEC, the Tigers do not have a group of accomplished WRs at the Power Five level.
That said, stars are routinely made out of unheralded athletes year in and year out. If a team has all its ducks in a row, standout performances become the norm across the board.
How the AU receiving core fares in 2022 will depend largely on the performance of T.J. Finley or Zach Calzada, depending on who wins the QB battle late in the summer when the Texas A&M transfer returns from a shoulder injury. It should be noted that the run game will be the primary focus of the offense according to Eric Kiesau.
But that Johnson Jr. is developing right on schedule as a junior WR is exactly what any Auburn football fan, and clearly Harsin himself, should want to see.